*The last paragraph expresses short analysis*
Can we just give Leo the trophy already? Oops, sorry, I didn't mean you Golden Globes. Though, that was nice of you guys. I am talking to you, Oscar. No, not you Oscar Isaac! YOU! OSCAR! Mr. Academy. . . I understand that there were better leads in the years that Leo didn't win, but those aren't in here this year. So go ahead, be nice, give him that little golden statue so he can die in peace.
Speaking of peaceful things, we have this film. And speaking of terrible segues, we have this intro where I explain how in this new film, The Revenant, Leo is mole- um, I mean, was attacked by a bear. After that, things go from bad to worse as one of his comrades (Hardy) kills his son, and leaves him to die in the wilderness. But this is Leo we are talking about. He will have his revenge (against the Academy!).
In all honesty, Leonardo DiCaprio's performance here is more than astounding. We're taking the for your consideration part of every film and expanding that to nearly every scene he's in. Yes, from the outside this could look like a one note performance, pain and suffering; but this is forgetting the acting prowess required of such a performance. There aren't all that many actors in the world who have this capability, or the borderline insanity to pursue such a role to such depth. DiCaprio is one of them.
The grittiness of such a role is put against one of the most beautiful backdrops of the year, Montana (and/or South Dakota) wilderness at winter. Thankfully the one doing the camera work on such a backdrop is someone who has worked on such recent films like Gravity and Birdman. Emmanuel Lubezki may just be the greatest cinematographer who has ever lived - he's certainly my favorite. He is the king of the long takes, but more than that, there is an innate creativity to his work which boggles the mind. There is a sequence at the beginning of the film which feature an attack by Native Americans, which from a logistical standpoint is astounding, especially considering everything in the film is shot in natural lighting. More than that, it's his intense focus into the wilderness which shows he knows how to make everything more vivid and intense. His focus on everything is almost jarring. There is so much to digest, that you don't know where to look at first, but it is Lubezki who guides us through with his astounding use of perspectives.
Conceptually speaking, this should be a lovable film. Somehow it isn't though. There is something amiss with the Revenant, something not quite right. Upon reflection, the first thought is there appears to be all grit and no nuance. This isn't the case though. There appears to be a deep and almost profound meditation on, well, something I can't say due to spoilers. However, you can just take the movie at face value to get your answer. The word "revenant" means to come back from the dead. This is no ordinary feat. Leo has something (SOMETHING BIG) at his back, pushing him forward. All other interpretations start to become unsatisfactory. With the other views, I believe the film begins to fall short and it can be perceived as an unrealistic, pretentious piece of Hollywood stuck up its own butt.
Ultimately, this is not that film. None of these perceived weaknessesbrings The Revenant down. In fact, I'm not really sure if there is anything that brings the film down. The pace is meant to be laborious, as we as an audience are enduring all the details of this hardship. In doing this though, the film starts to become exhausting and seems to overstay its welcome. While this is partially true, The Revenant is in no way blemished by this. It is its own unique film. We are meant to feel every painstaking blow The Revenant swings at us.
That being said, if I had to reach with there being any problem with the film it is its inconsistency of pace. We are taken through this grueling journey, to see every detail of survival then all of the sudden we gloss over seemingly important chunks of the survival process. I am fine with glossing over details as well as having a slow burn pace if that is what a filmmaker is striving for. To have both though, feels out of place and takes one out of the cinematic experience. Now, then again, I could be wrong. I am just a reviewer trying to understand why I wasn't so invested is such a beautifully acted, phenomenally shot piece of art.
I don't want to make it seem this is a bad film by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it probably is a great one. The Revenant is more nuanced than it lets on, and has the emotional weight and grit to match its borderline pretentious tone and imagery. Ultimately though, it's not that enjoyable as a cinematic experience. The pace becomes exhausting, which is mostly excusable due to the direction of the film, but it also becomes unsure of itself (pick a pace and go with it!). Sure, the visuals of the immaculate Emanuel Lubezki are mind boggling and will give any film buff, particularly those visually inclined, nerdgasms to end all nerdgasms. Also there's Leo - poor Leo who can't get a break. Well, here he delivers and delivers some more to give probably the best male lead performance of the year. Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter also give really fantastic performances. At its core it really is a film that is way better than what I have been describing. It is gritty, bloody, and beautiful. It just isn't watchable. That is to say, I wish I liked this film a whole lot more than I did.
Personal Preference: 3/5
Critical Analysis: 4.5/5